Change over season
  |  First Published: December 2013

The beginning of December is very much a time for change for fishing opportunities along Fraser Island's beaches, as well as in Hervey Bay's inshore waters.

Fraser's tailor season is now at its end apart from reports of a few good fish still coming in from the rocks at Indian Head. The last few months at Fraser Island have been very interesting indeed.

The tailor season pretty much lived up to expectations. As usual early season fish were on the small side with the big greenbacks turning up in time for the September school holidays. This year, rather than being concentrated along certain stretches of the coastline, there seemed to be a very even distribution from south of Eurong to Sandy Cape.

Other species, dart and whiting in particular, have been in good supply to the delight of light line anglers.

After the devastating erosion of beaches and dunes in the early part of the year, much of the sand has returned in a big way. For the first half of the year, Poyungan Rocks, including bypass and exposed rocks to the north, was the horror stretch of the eastern beach. In a very short time, mostly in July, most of the rocks had completely covered and very little traffic needed to use the bypass. However there are still a few problem stretches, such as at One Tree Rocks north of Eurong, where rocks remain or where deep high tide gutters have cut in to the base of the dunes.

With mostly good conditions on the beaches, it has been a completely different story on the island's inland roads. In short, they have been in atrocious condition, and this was particularly evident during the spring school holidays. With the tailor season at its peak, and the expected pleasant weather conditions, families flock to the island in their thousands.

The main cross-island tracks between Woongoolbver Creek and Eurong, and between Kingfisher Bay and Cornwells Break, have seen serious boggings and queues of vehicles held up for long periods. There have been many reports of visitors, setting off to visit some of the island's beauty spots, such as Lake McKenzie, have given up and returned to the beach.

Apparently the prevailing conditions and lack of resources have prevented attempts to rectify the situation. I'm not inclined to go down that path right now. The majority of problems can be attributed to driver inexperience, high tyre pressure and heavy loads, particularly towed trailers and campervans.

It has been very noticeable that the numbers of campervans coming onto the island is increasing rapidly. Fortunately most have been using the Inskip Point to Hook Point crossing, with travel up the ocean beach being fairly straightforward. With the current road conditions I would advise campers towing heavy trailers to avoid the main cross-island access tracks.

As well as problems on the main tracks, the bypass of Indian Head, the approach to the Middle Rocks jump-up, the road to Orchid Beach and the Ngkala Rocks bypass have seen plenty of hold-ups.

The last month or so has seen the seasonal strong northerly winds making fishing difficult. This is not so bad on the eastern beaches of Fraser Island, as the alignment of most of the eastern coast, means that northerlies are offshore winds.

On a disturbing note, however, there has been some weed returning to the eastern beach, particularly around Indian Head. In the bay the ‘dreaded northerlies’ tend to bring fishing to a standstill. They also herald the arrival of weed along the western beach, and this year is no exception. They can continue to make their presence felt into December but we should start to see more of the calmer weather that we like for visits to the shallow reefs.

As inshore waters temperature continue to rise we can expect species such as blackall, coral bream, Moses perch, blue parrot and coral trout become more active

Last month in our tour around Hervey Bay's land-based spots, we looked at the vast flats between Toogoom. Latest info on the flats is that good whiting are coming in from the gutters on half-flood tide as the inner gutters are starting to fill. Most are being taken on yabbies and these are plentiful on the flats and inside O'Regans Creek.

Now is the time to explore the possibilities around the rocky shores that extend from Eli Creek to Pialba. It is certainly not my intention to down play this area but I need to say that this is the most under-fished stretch of coastline that you are likely to see. This is certainly not because of any shortage of feeding grounds for a variety of species. Rocky ledges, intermittent sand and mud patches harbour a smorgasbord of marine animals that our inshore species depend on. However, the conditions have to be just right to bring some targets within casting distance. These conditions come about at particular stages of the tide, and be for specific species. I know many of the guys who fish here regularly, but you certainly don't see them out there in the middle of the day.

Fishing opportunities here are as seasonal as they are when fishing any of the other shallow bay waters. During the summer months, reef species move in over the rock shores, particularly at night and early morning. Although they will move right in close to high water the best opportunities are to be had from ledges and platforms where inshore coral patches can be reached in a comfortable cast. I like to use a 3-3.5m beach rod and unweighted bait of cuttlefish or half pilchard.

Coral bream (grass sweetlip) and blackall form most of the catches. Just about any of the rocky foreshore is worth looking at but to be successful you need to check out the venue carefully before fishing. If heavy coral and rock reef can be observed not far offshore, so much the better as resident fish move in to feed. My pick of the spots for this type of fishing is about halfway between Point Vernon and Pialba.

There are plenty of spots to try when chasing flathead around this rocky shore. Just about anywhere there are rocks and neighbouring sand or mud patches, flathead are likely to be waiting for a feeding opportunity. A typical example is where the flats meet the broken rock ledges at Gatakers Bay. Just around the corner near the old boat ramp similar conditions provide the right conditions. Flathead are likely captures throughout the year, probably reaching their peak in August or September.

Like most of Hervey Bay's rocky islands, the foreshores provide good conditions for spawning bream during the winter months. Although found along all the rocks, the ledges at Point Vernon appear to be most productive.

The best recipe for success is to pick a rising tide in an early evening during May, June or July. Use plenty of berley and fish without lead. Many of the locals use mullet gut but half-pilchards and cut baits work just as well. Be prepared for some very good quality fish. Don't be surprised if a good juvenile snapper turns up as well, but remember they need to make 35cm.

Tailor are another likely catch at Point Vernon. Spinning with metals off the end of the ledge during early mornings in winter months has been popular with a small group of locals. The last few years have been somewhat disappointing for reasons unknown. Hopefully we will see more of them in 2014.

That's about it for 2013. In January we will head east along Hervey Bay's foreshores as well as taking a good look at what is on offer at the Urangan Pier. In the meantime, have a great Christmas and start to 2014.

This 2kg tailor taken by Jamie Lineburg spinning over offshore coffee rocks with purpose-built long casting and high speed spinning gear. Lure used was an 85g Raider.

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